Constitutional Law

Chief Justice Roberts won't preside in Trump's second impeachment trial; what does the Constitution say?

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. presided over President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, but he won’t reprise the role a second time.

A court spokeswoman did not say whether Roberts had declined the job. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York indicated in an interview that the chief justice didn’t want to preside, and he wasn’t constitutionally obligated to do so, CNN reports.

“It was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who’s no longer sitting,” Schumer said Monday in an interview with The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. “And he doesn’t want to do it.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the president pro tempore of the Senate, will handle the job.

The National Law Journal, Law360, SCOTUSblog and the New York Times also have coverage.

Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, tweeted the relevant constitutional provision. It reads, “When the president of the United States is tried, the chief justice shall preside.”

“Last I checked,” Vladeck wrote, “the president of the United States is Joe Biden.”

According to Law360, the president pro tempore has overseen proceedings in modern impeachment trials, except when sitting presidents are tried.

The National Law Journal points out that the impeachment trial is likely to raise constitutional questions. They include whether a former president can be impeached and whether Trump’s speech before the Capitol riot was protected by the First Amendment. The impeachment issue could reach the Supreme Court.

See also: “Who will defend Trump in second impeachment trial? ‘He’s not going to get the A team,’ one prof says” “As House impeaches Trump for second time, some say Senate trial after his presidency is unconstitutional” “Meet Butch Bowers, a lead attorney in Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial” “Among those calling for Trump’s removal are Crowell & Moring and more than 6,500 lawyers”

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